Archive for December, 2008

The Puzzle Challenge

December 23, 2008

When I was a lad, my family had a Christmas tradition. We would give ourselves the collective gift of a large jigsaw puzzle, often one thousand pieces or more. If we completed it before New Year’s Day, then the coming year would be a lucky one.

Evelyn and I decided to dust off the tradition this season, choosing as our start date the shortest night of the year, incidentally the beginning of Chanukkah. She chose this year’s puzzle… a scenic caricature of Washington DC. In the spirit of TGI Friday’s, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff hidden on it, inexplicable things that we’ve given silly nicknames to in our attempt to navigate the chaos of the scene: Dr. Dolittle, Go North Guy, Whigman, Car Parts Kung-Fu Guy, The Popcorn Smasher, The House Carriers, Easter Bunny, The Gingerbread Walkers. and my favorite, the guy holding up the protest sign that reads "Hooray For my Sign"! I want to do that at a protest rally someday. 🙂

We have seven days left until our 1.1.09 deadline. Will we complete it in time? The race is on!
(UPDATE: We finished it on December 28th.)

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: The Great Daylight 1972 Fireball

Movies I’ve Seen:

Moulin Rouge (1952) ~ there go Jose Ferrer’s knees!

In Harm’s Way (1965) ~ like war, slow and intense

Unforgiven (1992) ~ where heroes are made and broken

Date Movie (2006) ~ crude and tasteless gross-out overdose

Balls of Fury (2007) ~ Christopher Walken is the movie

What I’m Reading:

"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand (83.6%)

"Homes and Other Black Holes" by Dave Barry

16, 26, and 007

December 7, 2008

I went home to Indiana, where I met a mother, a father, a grandfather, a brother, two fiancees, an uncle, an aunt, a stepmom, a dozen cousins, two friends, six cats, two ferrets, and a brand new niece. I ate lots of delicious food. It feels like I spent the entire nine days constantly being fed.

I visited Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, pictured above. At the top of the steps is a Greek revival temple containing a 19th century log cabin very similar to the one Lincoln was born in. (People used to consider this The Cabin, but modern science has recently disproved the notion.) The Lincolns lived here for just a few years. Abe’s father Thomas was challenged in court as to his ownership of the land. Thomas lost, and the family had to move ten miles northeast to Knob Hill. They stayed there for a few more years then moved across the Ohio river to Indiana, where Lincoln lived until beginning his law practice in Illinois. Evelyn thinks that his father’s defeat in land claims court inspired young Abe to become a lawyer.

I also visited former president Benjamin Harrison’s house in Indianapolis, where he lived from 1854 until his death in 1901. It is well-preserved and contains many period items of furniture and decor from the Gilded Age, many of which belonged to the Harrisons.

I viewed the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, and inevitably made comparisons between it and 2006’s Casino Royale. QoS maintains the same level of debonair realism that CR had, but replaces the love story with a cavalcade of action. The movie starts with a vicious car chase and shootout on crowded Italian coastal roads. Then a brief scene of dialogue segues into a chase on foot leading to a gunfight. Clues are revealed, leading to more killing, a boat chase, and some explosions. In general, the film is really a series of actions sequences tightly strung together by brief but interesting dialogue, a far departure from CR’s languid suspense. Gone are the casino games, the shaken martinis, the gadgets (aside from some lucid computer screens at MI6), and the girls with double entendre names. Casino Royale showed us that Craig exudes a brash and bold Connery, but QoS demonstrates his ability to portray a haunted angry Dalton. If you liked From Russia With Love and The Living Daylights, then you will like QoS.

Nifty Internet Toy: The Common Census Project

Another Nifty Internet Toy: All of Inflation’s Little Parts

Movies I’ve Seen:

A Day at the Races (1937) – Surprisingly good songs and dances

The Killer Shrews (1959) – rocket age psuedoscience and camp

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) – idealist indebted for friend’s sacrifice

Student Bodies (1981) – slasher spoof with pacing issues

Stone Cold (2005) – honest direct dialogue is funny

The Simpsons Movie (2007) – "Spider Pig" infected my brain!

Quantum of Solace (2008) – Bond is back, and pissed!

What I’m Reading:

"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand (77.1%)

"Homes and Other Black Holes" by Dave Barry